Creating Balanced Project Teams Using Belbin Model


JANUARY 2021


VENKAT ANNAPRAGADA



INTRODUCTION

Dr Meredith Belbin is the architect of the Belbin model. He is a British researcher and management theorist and studied teamwork for many years. He observed that team members in teams tend to assume different “team roles”. He defines a “team role” as “a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way". There are nine team roles that are described in this model.

BELBIN MODEL

The nine team roles in this model are divided into three groups: Action Roles, Social Roles, and Thinking Roles. Each team role is associated with typical behavioral and interpersonal strengths and characteristic weaknesses that tend to accompany the team-role.

The three Action Roles are Shapers, Implementers and Completer – Finishers

The three Social roles are Coordinator, Team Worker and Resource Investigator The three Thinking roles are Plant, Monitor-Evaluator and Specialist

Shapers are dynamic and thrive in a challenging, pressure filled environment. They have the drive to overcome obstacles. But they are also prone to provocation and offend other’s feelings.

Implementers are disciplined and conservative. They can turn ideas into practical actions. But they are inflexible and slow to respond to new possibilities.

Completer-Finishers are painstaking workers. They weed out all errors and omissions and deliver on time. But they may worry unnecessarily and find it hard to delegate. Coordinators are mature, confident people and become good Project Managers. They promote decision making and delegate well. But they can be manipulating and may over delegate.

Team Workers are co-operative, mild, and diplomatic. They build the team and avoid friction. But they can be indecisive in crunch situations.

Resource Investigators are extroverted, enthusiastic and good in communication. They explore new opportunities and develop new contacts. But they can be over-optimistic and lose interest too soon.

Plants are creative, imaginative, and unorthodox people. They can solve difficult problems. But they tend to ignore constraints and fail to communicate effectively.

Monitor-Evaluators are sober and strategic. They evaluate all options before arriving at a decision. But they are unable to inspire others.

Specialists are single-minded, self-starting and dedicated. They provide specialized knowledge. But they lack an understanding of the big picture.

BALANCED PROJECT TEAM

  • In a new Project, during planning phase, Project Manager should identify team roles essential for the project. Select team members who would easily fit into these team roles:
    • If the project requires specialized knowledge, Project Manager should plan to have team members in the Specialist role.
    • If the project is expected to be incredibly challenging, Project Manager should plan to have team members in the Shaper role.
    • Also, the Project Manager should identify if a team role is required only for a particular stage of the project and plan accordingly. For e.g., a Monitor- Evaluator may be required only in the design stage of the project to evaluate all options and arrive at a design approach for the project.

  • In a running Project, during execution phase, the Project Manager should observe the behavior of the individual team members and map them to one or more of the team roles. The Project Manager can also solicit the help of HR consultants who are proficient in mapping the team members using standard questionnaire. This knowledge can be used to
    • Identify and manage interpersonal differences within an existing team.
    • Identify if any necessary team role is missing in the team. Solution would be to move an existing team member to the needed team role, or a new team member inducted. For e.g., if new ideas and approaches are required in the project, one of the team members has to assume the role of Plant.
    • Identify cases where a single team role is assumed by many team members and hence weakening the team overall. Some of the team members need to be moved into a new team role or replaced with new members. For e.g., if there are too many Team Workers, decision making will be poor in the team.

REFERENCES

[1] Belbin Team Role Theory. http://www.belbin.com/

[2] Belbin's Team Roles - How understanding team roles can improve team performance. http://www.mindtools.com/

[3] The Nine Belbin Team Roles. http://itmanagersinbox.com/

[4] Lake, Cathy. Mastering Project Management

FIRST PUBLISHED

This article was first published by the same author in the PMEssence newsletter of PMI Bengaluru chapter in March 2009

VENKAT ANNAPRAGADA

Venkat has over two decades of work experience across Chemical and IT industries. He has performed the roles of Business Analyst, Project Manager and Senior Project Manager. He has been providing Project Management training, mentoring, and coaching since 2010.

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